There’s just something so great about youth ministry retreat weekends: transformational prayer experiences, community building, meals that would make you beg for the down-home cooking of your college dorm room days, and that one boy who brings his guitar because he just mastered the chorus to some John Mayer song and wants to put on a private concert around the campfire.
Ahh yes. We do love our retreat weekends. In fact we love them so much that it’s not enough for us to capture this moment with a simple photo. Nope. Somewhere in the history of youth ministry, someone had the bright idea to add a crazy group photo to the mix. And, much like that “Banner Over Me” song, it just won’t go away.
Seriously? Why do we take crazy group photos? Are the staged smiles no longer enough? Do we really need to stage complete and total anarchy too? And have we ever thought about what these photos might convey to the parents who sent their teens?
“Hmmm. Well Johnny, I see you had quite an experience of Jesus this weekend. I can tell by the way you are shaking your head and sticking out your tongue in this group photo.”
Regardless of why we do them, here are five people you are almost guaranteed to see in any crazy group photo:
1. The Lay Across the Front Girl/Guy
This can come in a variety of forms: a teen laying on the ground, a teen who got picked up by some peers and forced into this situation, or that chaperone who was getting everybody fired up and had to dive in at the last minute. No matter how it happens, any crazy group photo must have a guy or girl lay across the front. If not, well, it’s just not official.
2. The Kids Who Are Too Cool for the Photo
With their blank stare and innate ability to stand in the back, you’d think these teens just didn’t want to be noticed. But they’re so easy to spot. Why? Maybe if they tried to fit in and had worn the retreat t-shirt no one would’ve noticed them. Haha. Nice try cool kids, but we win on this one!
3. The Unsure Chaperone
In any crazy group photo, there’s always that one chaperone who is just not too sure about it.
“Who might see this picture? What will they think? What if my boss sees this? I can’t have him thinking I’m crazy. I’ll play it safe and just put my arms in the air.”
Of course what they don’t realize, is that most of the time, they end up standing out more than anyone else.
4. The Bunny Ears Giver
For those teens who are still caught up with the little gags they used to play in second grade, this is the go-to move. Typically these are the teens who were pranked the night before and think this is the best way to get the perpetrator back. What they don’t know, however, is that this only sets them up for another, even more egregious prank on the next retreat.
5. Flex Armstrong
If ever there were an opportunity for a 130-pound freshman boy to show off his “guns,” it’s in a crazy group photo. Honestly, why does someone always have to flex in these pictures? And better yet, why is it always the skinny kid? Is this really the best time to start working on that body-building career? I’m sure that 230-pound captain of the football team feels very threatened.
No matter how they originated, crazy group photos give teens an opportunity to be joyful and celebrate how God moved in their hearts that weekend. And whether you like them or not, at least it’s a short time of peace from the chorus to that John Mayer song.
Question: What are some ways you celebrate how God moved on a retreat? (Share below)